It's pretty clear that the Yankees have given up hope for Andy Pettitte making one more spin on the carousel.
If they had any illusions, there would be a team of Yankees in Texas wooing Pettitte and his family with anything they could think of to get him back for another season. Instead they are claiming underwhelming relievers off waivers and kicking the tires on reclamation projects like Jeremy Bonderman, Bartolo Colon and Jeff Francis.
Brian Cashman has made it clear that he's playing the game as if Pettitte won't come back next season, something that's hard to believe when you see names like that bandied about as potential Yankee starters. The reason seems to be Cashman's distaste for the cost of potential rotation options out there.
But here's the big question: If Cashman isn't willing to overpay for help in the rotation, why is he taking a course of action that makes it more likely he'll be desperate when he really goes looking for it?
No one can look at the paucity of options on the open market and blame Cashman for turning up his nose. Nor would you recommend paying a premium in a trade for a less-than-premium player. We aren't talking about a need for a premium player, though. We're talking about the need for a pitcher who can be an upgrade on Sergio Mitre and/or Ivan Nova.
That can't be prohibitively expensive. You'd love to see them pick up a pitcher who would limit the need to rely on A.J. Burnett, but the truth is that a Burnett rebound is going to be essential to whatever the team is planning in 2011. You don't need to aim that high to make this a better team, which is part of why their inactivity borders on maddening.
A fourth starter of modest talent and experience can serve dual purposes. He can provide you innings that you'll need to keep the bullpen fresh and avoid the kind of losing jags that will make making the playoffs less likely. He can also solidify things in the rotation enough that when you do look to upgrade, be it in the rotation or pen or lineup, you aren't shopping with "Rob me blind" stamped on your forehead.
One way or the other the Yankees are going shopping and, given the money saved when Cliff Lee went to Philly, they're likely to be hitting Fifth Avenue and not Costco. You don't want to walk into those stores with your needs pulsing like a neon sign, you want to be the cool customer who will walk out in a moment's notice if they can't make you the deal you want.
Cashman is trying to play the part right now, but it simply doesn't fit when everyone saw the way he and the Yankees fell all over themselves trying to get Lee. Everyone knows the Yankees don't feel comfortable entering the season with the rotation where it is, which means that come July when the pennant race is heating up they'll make Cashman pay even more to get the things he needs.
History says he'll wind up paying, so maybe it's time to stop acting like you get consolation prizes for not getting ripped off when other teams are celebrating in October.